We may be on the cusp of a huge change in the world of movie theaters. For basically a century, theaters have charged every customer the same price for every seat in every theater for every movie. Sure, a matinee might be cheaper than a primetime screening, but it didn’t matter if you were seeing a huge blockbuster on opening night or an indie film in its 20th week of release; the price for a ticket was exactly the same.
In recent years, there have been murmurs about some theater companies experimenting with “variable pricing” — charging more for tickets based on the film you’re seeing or for the best seats in the house — and now one of the biggest chains is trying that tactic out with one of the most-anticipated films of the year. AMC Theaters CEO Adam Aron noted during an earnings call (via Entertainment Weekly) that this company will charge customers coming to see The Batman ”slightly higher than the prices… for other movies playing in the same theaters at the same time.”
Aron claimed this business tactic is new for theaters, but very common in other industries and in other parts of the world:
This is all quite novel in the United States, but actually, AMC has been doing it for years in our European theaters … in Europe, we charge a premium for the best seats in the house, as do just about all other sellers of tickets in other industries — think sports events, concerts, and live theater, for example.
EW claims that tickets to The Batman at AMC theaters in Los Angeles are $1.50 higher than for other movies. In New York City, they are charging a flat $1 extra. For example, a ticket to The Batman this Friday will cost you $19.49 at the AMC 34th Street in Manhattan.
But a ticket at the same theater on the same day at basically the same time for the video game adaptation Uncharted costs only $18.49.
Supposedly The Batman variable prices are part of an “experiment” on AMC’s part, so they could become the norm or they could just be a one-time thing. An extra dollar isn’t going to break anyone’s bank account, but if it becomes the norm, it could add up quickly for regular moviegoers — or if theaters decide to charge an extra $5 or $10 for the biggest movies down the line. At a time when movie theaters are threatened like never before, I’m not sure that squeezing every last penny you can out of your few remaining loyal customers is the smartest move.
The Batman opens in theaters this weekend. Depending on where you go to see it, your ticket might cost a buck or two extra. You may want to shop around to find the best price.
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